Yes: Sepa Does Matter

But NO: it is not happening.

At least these are the results of the two questions poll raised at the end of the Financial Services Club’s debate on SEPA, held on the 31st of January. Over 100 attendees voted with a show of hands on: “Is SEPA happening?” and “Does it matter?”. Notable to say the ones present stated that initially only one hand was raised claiming SEPA is progressing well, as Ben Poole wrote on his blog.

Why now? I guess FSC felt the need for this kind of event not only because EU recently provided us with a SEPA migration deadline, against the slow pace it has had so far, but mainly due to the economic turmoil of recent months. So, I imagine no surprise for anyone when they had three Europeans in the “YES” camp and two British in the “NO” camp, just enough to continue the “age old Anglo/German battle“.

Nevertheless, with the European Parliament and Council having reached agreement on the deadline for the migration to SEPA credit transfers and direct debits, there comes new focus on the matter. Finextra ran the article in December last year, stating: “SEPA migration deadline set at February 2014”. And gtnews, considering it worthwhile to gather industry experts to comment, ran no less than 7 new articles addressing this subject only this last week.

Even if many were waiting for this news and believe it is an important step to finally have dates set when it is mandatory for corporations and banks in all Euro countries to use SEPA standards for euro credit transfers and direct debits, the nay-sayers in the SEPA debate claim that given the current economic environment in Europe, there are other issues far more important and in need of urgent attention than reaching the payments infrastructure harmonization, as the backdrop of the Eurozone implosion, liquidity risk, transaction taxes.

An interesting aspect raised at this debate, trying to explain the slow progress of the SEPA transition, is the fact that it has been seen as a basic compliance project, falling into the business area and given to lawyers, rather than being brought into the product area and presented to infrastructure operators, where some chance for innovation could be found.

It is well known that SEPA needs public sector bodies to switch to its formats in order to boost widespread adoption within banks and corporations, but is this happening?

Well, we hope it does in Romania. As TransFonD , in cooperation with the Romanian National Bank (BNR) and the Romanian Banking Association (ARB) has initiated the project for the transition to the SEPA mechanisms and has set the following targets: first half of 2012 for RON credit transfers, second half of 2012 for EUR credit transfers and 2013 for direct debits. Moreover, the Romanian Ministry of Finance is an enthusiastic supporter of the European initiative and the national project regarding SEPA.

Allevo has been also involved in publicly promoting the importance of SEPA mechanisms adoption by the Romanian financial institutions and corporations, as well in Romania, as across our borders. It has done so by organizing dedicated sessions at the last three Sibos conferences, by maintaining its product’s SEPA functionality (qPI is accredited SEPAReady by SWIFT in 2008 & 2009), by taking part in all phases of the TransFonD project.

I would like to conclude with the advice given by one of the SEPA advocates and that is to prepare your organizations, banks as well as corporations, for SEPA before the end date. He stated that if everyone left it until the absolute last minute, the IT resource required would be severely stretched and, if you’re using outside help, very expensive.

So, be prepared!

By: Ioana Moldovan

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